Indonesia Quake: Relief Trickles into West Java

A house in Sindang Barang, Cianjur,
damaged by the 7.3-magnitude earthquake.
Thirty-seven people are still reported missing in Cianjur,
where rocks and boulders slid off a cliff and buried a dozen homes.

As the death toll from Wednesday’s powerful quake continued to climb, aid, as well as government officials and disaster tourists, began pouring in to the two worst-affected areas. Priyadi Kardono, spokesman of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), said the death toll had risen to 57 as of Thursday evening, including 21 in Cianjur, 10 in Garut, nine in Tasikmalaya and eight in Bandung — all districts in West Java. Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry’s Crisis Center, said the figures could still climb, as 37 were still missing in Cianjur, where rocks and boulders slid off a cliff and buried a dozen homes in the village of Cikangkareng in the southern part of the district. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the village on Thursday and pledged Rp 5 billion ($495,000) to help West Java with emergency relief. Accompanied by his ministers and the first lady, the president walked the last two kilometers to the site. He said a brief prayer at the location where scores are still believed to have been buried in the landslide. The president also visited the tents sheltering the displaced, now vastly outnumbered by curious onlookers from surrounding areas, as well as journalists covering the disaster. A total of 5,368 people were now temporarily sheltered in various centers in West Java, mostly in Cianjur, while another 2,388 people were now living in tents in Cilacap, Central Java. Yudhoyono called on the displaced to remain at the shelters until the authorities gave the all-clear sign, as aftershocks continued to rattle the area. He also asked that the search and evacuation efforts be continued. As of Thursday afternoon, a joint effort by the National Search and Rescue Agency, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, the Indonesian Armed Forces and the police, assisted by two heavy machinery, had evacuated 20 victims. “The emergency response will have to continue. As we’re dealing with a pile of rocks, we need to see if the heavy machinery is still effective or not. If it is not effective, other solutions must be found,” Yudhoyono said. At the same location, Yusuf Effendy, deputy governor of West Java, said authorities would continue the search for the next two weeks. Relocation of the villagers would be conducted after all the victims were evacuated. Meanwhile, Social Welfare Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah visited Tasikmalaya, where the 7.3-magnitude quake hit hardest, destroying about 500 houses and leaving about 2,000 homeless. He delivered Rp 800 million in cash for local governments in the 10 affected districts in West Java, including Ciamis, Sumedang, Sukabumi and Purwakarta. “Those are just for the first day. We will keep them coming after we review their necessities,” said Adi Karyono, section head of alertness monitoring and natural disaster mitigation at the Social Affairs Ministry, adding the ministry would meet today to further assess needs in the province. The Social Affairs Ministry, Health Ministry and local governments have so far provided food, clothing, body bags, a portable power generator and medicines. The Indonesian Red Cross Society (PMI) has also sent hygiene kits, blankets and sarongs. Arifin Muhammad Hadi, PMI’s division head of disaster mitigation, said two ambulances with two doctors and three nurses were sent to Cianjur on Thursday to set up mobile clinics, while volunteers were assessing the damage and the casualties. Alma Lucyanti, head of the West Java Health Agency, said that an orthopedic team was in the affected areas to deal with bone fractures, the main type of injuries so far. Authorities in Sukabumi district pledged to provide financial assistance of the up to Rp 2 million for each of the 3,000 damaged house there. The United Nations, through its various agencies, began to work to provide relief for the quake victims on Thursday.

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